One of the nicest things someone has ever written about me is also one of the funniest. It was a signature in my senior yearbook, and while I don’t remember the wording verbatim, the gist of it was that I was one of the only people my classmate knew who was completely unaffected by the stresses of high school, a quality she admired.
The sentiment wasn’t totally off the mark. I had a great time and a solid group of friends throughout high school despite being a huge nerd, probably because I managed to develop a sense of humor almost immediately after realizing how bad I was going to be at sports. (“Have a good sense of humor” is the first piece of advice I would offer to all young nerds out there. The second piece of advice would be “Do not take advice from me.”) And I think I always knew on some level that any problem an upper-middle-class suburban white teenage male thought he was facing couldn’t actually be a real problem, which helped me keep most of the stereotypical adolescent angst at bay. So, yes, my overall high school experience was fun and largely stress free, especially now that I get to filter all my memories of it through seven years of nostalgia.
|This usually wasn't me. But I dabbled.|
But there’s one image that comes to mind whenever I read that signature that makes it hard not to laugh about: 16-year-old me going on a run with “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance blaring through my headphones on repeat, upset because a girl doesn’t like me and my world is ending. I may have dealt with the stresses of high school pretty well, but I certainly wasn’t immune to them.
“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” was always my song of choice when it felt like being a teenager had become too hard. Apart from an early dalliance with Jimmy Eat World, I never really embraced the emo scene (mocking it was a lot more fun), but that track was the exception. Whether it was a girl issue, a grades issue, an I’m-not-having-enough-fun issue or something else, my coping mechanism was almost always the same: put on My Chemical Romance, and go running until I felt too tired to remember what was getting me so worried. It was surprisingly effective.
To be honest, I’m not sure what “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” is actually about. I usually tuned out most of the lyrics to the verses while listening to it and focused solely on the intense, guttural screams of “I’m not okay” that made up the chorus. That was the only part of the song that mattered because that was the only part that I sometimes felt like I needed to say. I’m 16; I’m happy; I’m healthy; but every now and then, I’m still not okay. I promise. I just don’t know why.
Anyway, I eventually got older and more emotionally stable, and my use of “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” as therapy became something to joke about with my older and more emotionally stable friends while we listened to super cool indie music by bands you probably haven’t heard of. And then, a few weeks ago, My Chemical Romance broke up, and I started thinking about that song again. It’s been a while since I’ve needed it as an antidepressant, and I’m much more likely to laugh than feel like the band is speaking directly to me when I hear it nowadays, but that doesn’t change the fact that when I was faking my way through adolescence, it was genuinely helpful in a way that not many other songs were.
So thanks, MCR. And don’t let anyone give you shit about “Welcome To The Black Parade.” Because that’s a pretty epic song, despite the confusing and kind of terrifying video.